Someone had emailed me and asked me about my conversion story and if I was in one of the Surprised by Truth books. While greatly flattered, I suspect that would not happen until possibly Surprised by Truth 89: Conversion stories of people you never heard of.
But here is the short version: God did it, sometimes I cooperated.
The problem with conversion stories is that they don’t actually end until hopefully your last second in Purgatory. Every day is another chapter in a conversion story. We can chart the highlights in our personal salvation history, but looking at conversion or salvation as one time event is a dangerous idea.
If I was in a Surprised by Truth book the chapter would be entitled. Mr. Magoo blunders into the Catholic Church
Mr. Magoo because It would be difficult to find someone as religiously blind and ignorant as I was and my ending up in the Catholic Church was full of turns and bumping into walls. I had no idea what a Protestant was and didn’t know what the differences were if any between say a Baptist Church and a Catholic Church. I don’t even remember hearing about the Reformation and I knew there were Lutheran Churches, but I didn’t know who Martin Luther was. While I enjoyed stories of Jesus during Christmas (yes I am old enough to remember when they still played them during Christmas on TV), I had no idea what the Trinity was supposed to be. The term Holy Ghost totally befuddled me.
When I first started reading the Bible I was totally surprised by how many phrases and sayings that I had heard actually came from the Bible. Once I got to the point of okay maybe there is a God I started reading everything on the shelves at the local library to determine how to react to that knowledge. I had no attraction to Eastern religions since there concept of the world and truth was so highly subjective and/or seen as an illusion. My wife is a cradle Catholic and I had secretly admired her faith even while reviling the outward practices of Catholic devotions. I am sure my wife gave St. Monica a run for the money in comparison to praying for my conversion. So I had some Catholic bias despite some teenage run ins with a highly progressive Catholic Church my Mother had started going to.
Something guided me through both the Protestant and Catholic books I read. I could even read all the way through Fr. O’Brien’s “Catholicism” a progressive read on the faith and I knew where it was wrong even though I couldn’t articulate why. After moving to Florida I suddenly had both Catholic Radio, EWTN and multiple Catholic Bookstores available. Catholic Answers especially helped me to be more focused in what I was reading and to show me why the ideas that I knew to be wrong were.
So again like Mr. Magoo my stumblings ended up with everything still turning out right in the end. I could not begin to describe the Joy of believing in Christ and the Church he founded. Before I thought all my failing were only a result of a poor will, that only if I willed things enough I could overcome what I did not like about myself. Having original sin and not being aware of it leads to your trying to treat this condition with every remedy but the right one. There is an amazingly release in being able to say the Jesus Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I can well put myself in place with the publican and repeat with him “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Which I guess makes me a re-publican.
Instead of the tedium of atheism I now have the Te Deum:
O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb.
Having overcome the sting of death, Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.
V. Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thy inheritance!
R. Govern them, and raise them up forever.
V. Every day we thank Thee.
R. And we praise Thy Name forever, yes, forever and ever.
V. O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
V. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
R. O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust; let me never be put to shame.